A visit to Times Square is at the top of Natalie Alton’s to-do list on her first trip to New York City for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Alton, a senior at Olathe East High School, has been invited to march in the parade as part of the Macy’s Great American Marching Band.
By SARA BEANE
Special to The Star
The clarinet player and Olathe East drum major is joining approximately 200 other high school musicians from across the country. It’s quite a thrill for someone who has grown up watching the parade on television every year.
“I am pretty excited,” Alton said. “It was something I did on a whim and I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. I was pretty surprised and shocked.”
The Macy’s Great American Marching Band is open to students in grades nine through 12 from more than 14,000 high schools across the country. Alton had to submit an application and a tape of a solo performance. The selection committee must have liked what they heard, because Alton was the only student from Kansas selected to join the prestigious band.
Jeff Smikahl, Alton’s band director at Olathe East, wasn’t surprised that a player of her caliber would be asked to play in a marching band on a national level.
“I think in terms of leadership, she is extremely organized and has a very clear vision of what she wants from the group and expects from others,” Smikahl said. “From a playing standpoint, I think she is naturally talented and has worked on developing a great sound.”
Alton, who arrived in New York City several days before the parade, has her work cut out for her. She’ll rehearse eery day before the big event. She will even have an early morning rehearsal on Thanksgiving, just prior to the start of the parade.
But Alton will get the chance to do some sightseeing while in New York, which will more than make up for the long hours of rehearsal.
“I’ve always wanted to go to New York; it’s been a dream of mine,” Alton said. “So I get to combine my dream of going to New York with my love of marching band.”
For Alton, the trip to New York will be a family affair. Alton’s twin sister Jenna also is traveling to New York City with the Olathe East choir. The choir will perform at Carnegie Hall just days after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Thanks to her sister’s performance schedule, Alton will end up getting to spend a few extra days in her dream city. She hopes to visit many iconic sights and restaurants while she’s there. But for all of the extraordinary sightseeing that awaits her, the thing that Alton is most excited about is meeting other young people that share her love of music.
“I’m looking forward to playing with other people who love marching band,” Alton said. “It’s not every day that you have people together who all love marching band. It will probably be one of the best bands I’ve ever performed with.”